Claim compensation for pothole damage to your car, bike or motorcycle

Rosalind Kent
by Lovemoney Staff Rosalind Kent on 21 February 2013  |  Comments 14 comments

Local councils are shelling out thousands on compensation for damage caused by potholes to vehicles. Why not spend that money on actually fixing them?!

Claim compensation for pothole damage to your car, bike or motorcycle

With the cost of motoring already reaching astronomical heights - petrol, insurance and tax are all steadily on the rise - the last thing a driver needs is the added cost of car repairs caused by pothole damage. 

With Council Tax set to rise again in April many people are angry that, despite paying through the nose, local councils are allowing our roads to deteriorate year on year. It has been reported that only £17 per driver is spent on road maintenance in the UK. No wonder some critics have suggested it won’t be long before our roads are comparable to those of a 'third world country'.

Why are the roads so bad?

Water seeps down below our road surfaces and then freezes in the winter. This pushes up the asphalt and causes holes.

But it is not just the weather that is causing such havoc. Other contributing factors are vastly increased traffic flow, which is putting pressure on roads of all sizes throughout the UK, and the constant digging up of our roads by utility companies. When electricity and water companies perform repairs to their cables and pipes, they tend to simply patch up the road rather than resurfacing it, and this makes them more susceptible to damage.

With the vast profits that these companies make perhaps they should be forced to make proper repairs in future! 

What damage is being done?

Our vehicles are suffering from these uneven surfaces. The most obvious damage is to our wheels, with both wheel rims and punctured tyres being major complaints.

Driving on a consistently uneven surface can also take its toll on our suspension, steering mechanisms, exhausts and roll bars, which can rattle free with the constant abuse.

How to claim

Each county council will have a specific procedure for compensation claims, so make sure you check your local council’s website for specific information. Remember, you can claim for damage to bikes and motorcycles as well as cars.

As a general rule of thumb, if you aim to follow the steps below you won’t go far wrong.

  • Take a photograph of the pothole and note down its rough size and depth as well as its precise location (make a sketch of the area if you can).
  • Report it to your council using the reporting procedure specified on your council’s website.
  • If the council has not repaired it within a reasonable time (some say around a week is enough time to give) then this should strengthen your case.
  • Consider submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to the council or Highways Agency to find out as much as you can about the road and its maintenance history, as this could also strengthen your case.
  • Put all your complaints in writing and ensure that all contact with the council is done via letter or email (a phone call can always be denied). In your letter include: a full description of the accident, where and when it was (date and time), your photographs and your sketch plan of the area. Also include a copy of your repair bill for the damage caused and keep copies of all your letters!
  • If the council makes you an offer you should give it proper consideration even if you are not entirely happy. If you wish to fight on, your next option will be to take court action. Provided your claim is for under £5,000 you can take action in the Small Claims court. You won’t need a solicitor and you can issue proceedings online via their MoneyClaim Online system. For more information take a look at How to win in the Small Claims Court.

Am I likely to get a pay-out?

It won’t be easy! The council will vigorously defend itself under section 58 of the Highways Act (which basically states they just have to prove they have taken ‘reasonable’ care of the road). But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. While evidence suggests that the vast majority of claims are automatically turned down in the first instance, persistence is the key.

The table below* details a ‘snapshot’ of payouts in various counties in the UK.

County

Number of claims made

Amount paid out in compensation

Kent

4,904

£133,593

Surrey

3,650

£638,239

Essex

2,696

£103,567

Lincolnshire

620

£119,706

Nottinghamshire

777

£158,578

Barnsley

296

£241,202

*Information gathered by a Brittania Rescue survey

Start a revolution

Each individual pothole costs on average around £50 to repair, but records show that a compensation pay-out can be anywhere up to £3,000 (the average repair bill is £132). With councils paying out hundreds of thousands each year in compensation, why isn't the money being earmarked for repairing the roads instead?

If you are successful in your compensation claim, and are feeling particularly altruistic, you could consider returning your pay-out to the council on the proviso that they repair your neighbourhood roads. You will be a local hero!

More on cars:

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Comments (14)

  • joegriffin2002
    Love rating 3
    joegriffin2002 said

    Over the last 5 years i have damaged 2 wheels, 3 tyres, 1 spring, 1 exhaust, 2 lots of suspension. I have reported the potholes a few times and tried claiming back expenses for repairs from the local authority twice to no avail. Recently having changed cars i have damaged my suspension and this time i am out of work and cannot afford to have repairs done for some time, while my car is parked up i am still wasting money on insurance and road tax for a car i cannot use due to the local authoritys lack of orginisation in fixing major potholes and road damage in my town. What can i do?

    Report on 10 March 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • lauralouise90
    Love rating 1
    lauralouise90 said

    I kept damaging my car through potholes and contacting the council numerous times for something to be done. Recently my car was damaged by potholes again, but this time the pothole was so deep that I had a whiplash claim too - I used these guys for my personal injuries compensation (http://www.tbilaw.co.uk/injury-and-negligence/personal-injury-solicitors/) and so far so good!

    Report on 12 July 2013  |  Love thisLove  1 love

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